Fishing can be one of the most rewarding times; it promotes time in the outdoors and if you want time spent with family and friends. Nevertheless, few feelings replicate having a fish on your line.

But what if that fish isn’t what you expected? Something with a head-scratching appearance, razor-sharp teeth, or the thrill of a terrifying target?

Accidentally, catching a fish with these characteristics is a reality in the US. Some of these species can very well be in your backyard! That said, here is everything you need to know about America’s most ghastly fish!

1. Alligator Gar – Texas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Florida, and Arkansas 

Razor-sharp teeth with an elongated jaw, just like the reptile of the same name, whether an intentional or accidental catch, the alligator gar is not one to reel in without experience.

For the faint few who target this monster of the south, being over-prepared is better than nothing at all. Aside from its mouth full of sharp teeth, the alligator gar also possesses hard-to-pierce flesh and a whipping tail that can knock you overboard. And if that wasn’t enough, these dinosaur-like fish can grow up to 350 pounds! Which is also part of the appeal for big game anglers.

For those who tangle in an adrenaline-pumping retrieval of one of these, the rewards are succulent filets if you can cut through the skin. Just ensure, before retrieving your dinner, bring the fish to shore instead of trying to unhook on a boat. Also, it’s a good idea to have cut-resistant gloves on hand when tending to the fish.

Oh, and if you wanted a reason to eliminate invasive carp, save the cut bait for gar fishing.

2. Sheepshead – Atlantic Coast

Sheepshead is a commonly caught Atlantic species; from piers, jetties, or off the shore, they can be found everywhere from Massachusetts to the Gulf of Mexico.

At first glance, its black and white stripes give it an innocent appearance. That is, until it opens its mouth! If you have dentophobia, RUN. Sheepshead has multiple rows of incisors and molars on both the upper and lower jaws. Just like a human being. And, if you’re not prepared, it can send a shudder down your spine.

While fishing on the shore, what you reel in can be unpredictable. Hence, this species is known to steal bait when bottom fishing, so hooking them is more or less an accident when targeting other saltwater shore species. 

But if you want to capture one for yourself, go for a light 7-foot saltwater rod with a braided line, up to a 20-pound test. As well as live bait like shrimp. And it shouldn’t go without saying to avoid being chewed on; keep your hands underneath the fish when handling.

3. Paddlefish – Mississippi River Basin and the Gulf of Mexico

Nevertheless, this is the only time you want to snag anything in the fishing world, and it’s when targeting the Paddlefish. Also known as the Spoonbill fish, the paddlefish is one of the most peculiar-looking fish in the US. It features an elongated mouth shaped like a chainsaw or a spoon, which gives them the namesake.

It’s also the hard-to-catch nature of paddlefish, which makes them a draw for anglers. And with a range from New York to Montana in the Mississippi River Basin, they are an elusive and unworldly catch. But if you find yourself in Texas, this state is a hotbed for them.

Aside from location, you’re probably wondering how to get one of these perplexing fish for yourself since traditional fishing techniques won’t work here. And that’s by using sweeping methods to navigate the line, with most anglers opting to use techniques like the snagging hook or snagging rig.

4. Bull Sharks -Atlantic and Gulf Waters

If you’re ever fishing in brackish water, here’s a reminder that sharks can still populate them. And the bull shark is no joke; in 2022, an 11-year-old boy was attacked in Florida by a nine-foot bull shark, with other attacks well documented. 

This is because they favor shallow coastal waters, including inland rivers like the Mississippi River, and have been documented as far upstream as Illinois. Bull sharks are euryhaline, meaning they can live in fresh and saltwater, making them an unpredictable and terrifying sight. 

Maybe Jaws should have featured the bull shark instead.

Jokes aside, it is possible to hook on one of these aggressive and large fish. And for the class of angler looking for a thrill of a lifetime, to capture one of these fear-provoking creatures, you will want some extra large cut bait like an eel. In fact, eel is the undisputed go-to bait for targeting bull sharks, though stingrays or whole mullets will work, too.

A general gear setup would be a seven-foot saltwater rod with 10/0 hooks as an excellent place to start. Fishing line preference will vary between covered monofilament or braided line; remember the toothy nature of these nightmarish fish when going out.

A Final Thought

Occasionally, some species’ strange, dangerous or grim nature makes them an attraction and even a novelty catch for anglers. Are you drawn by the look, the risk, or the rarity of the fish? 

Nevertheless, these ghastly fish are all found in America. From the rivers, lakes, coast, and expansive oceans, some of which could be near you!

This begs the question, are any of these listed fish found in your communities? Which one do you fear the most? Please let us know in the comments below!